A ‘new threat to us’: Kamlop’s fire chief after BC’s record-breaking season

After a record-breaking fire season in the BC interior, Kamloop’s fire chief Steve Robinson warns politicians to be “very serious” about climate change.

With a briefing on city council members Tuesday, Robinson said the fires the crews fought this summer were “different” from any he has previously observed.

“There were things some of these forest fires did this year – rank five, rank six fire at night – that’s not the norm,” he said.

“We have to take it seriously, and as a city and as a fire department, we are looking at what we can do to understand the new threat to us.”

In July, a forest fire forced the RCMP to briefly evacuate their homes in the Juniper Ridge and Valleyview communities.

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By that time, emergency rooms were already full of people who had escaped the devastating fire in Lytton, BC

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“We saw (climate change) in effect with this heating dome,” Robinson said. said. “Five or six days of plus-47 degrees-everything I’ve read says these events will be more common in the future.”

After the heat dome struck, Robinson said Kamloops Fire and Rescue began meeting twice daily in anticipation of possible wildfires. These meetings began on June 29 – two days before the Juniper Ridge fire.

He told the city council he believes communication helped save homes and potential lives.

Kamloops Fire and Rescue, he added, is now working to improve the speed of its public messages in tactical evacuation scenarios.

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“One of the things we understood was that we didn’t get as much information out as early as we wanted,” he explained.

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“We can have a closer coordination of messages … Use social media for introductory messages to improve speed and reach the public.”

The City of Kamloops will also work with the Thompson-Nicolas Regional District’s Emergency Operations Center to coordinate messages when it affects a divided audience, Robinson said.

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His comments come less than a month after a report from Thompson Rivers University called for improvements in the province’s communications about the risks before, during and after wildfires.

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The report analyzed the devastating forest fire seasons of 2017 and 2018 and made six recommendations, including ensuring remote and indigenous communities have robust communication systems in place where emergency officials can pass on fast and accurate fire information.

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It includes enhanced Internet services in remote communities or at least providing local officials with a satellite phone to communicate rapid fire information, said the study’s lead researcher, Michael Mehta, who teaches geography and environmental studies at Thompson Rivers University.

With files from The Canadian Press and Radio NL’s Colton Davies

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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